CAMPED AT GILGAL
Copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
We were saved out of Egypt, out of the Antichrist world spirit, by the blood of the cross. We were baptized with the Holy Spirit in order that we might overcome sin, and also serve our gifts and ministry to our fellow members of the Body of Christ, that Christ may be formed in them.
Now we are camped at Gilgal, in the plains of Jericho, to speak in a figure, looking toward Jericho, the first of the cities of Canaan that we are to possess. Canaan is a type of our land of promise, and it is filled with enemies.
We have not been here before. We have been occupied with learning the lessons that the wilderness, through which we have been plodding for many years, has provided for us while the older people have died off.
Now we have reached our goal—that which we have been thinking about while we have been growing up. It is a good land, good for agriculture and good for raising livestock. And yet it already is inhabited.
I have said, Canaan is a type of our land of promise. For so many centuries, Canaan has represented Heaven. “When we get to Heaven all of our problems will be over. Christ came to bring us to our mansion in Heaven.”
But Canaan is not a type of Heaven. It simply is not a type of Heaven! Nowhere in the New Testament is Heaven set forth as our goal. None of the parables of Christ are about Heaven. The Apostles did not preach about our going to Heaven.
If Heaven is the goal of our salvation, there ought to be at least one New Testament statement that we are on our way to Heaven when we are saved. There is no such statement.
What then is the subject of the New Testament. What did Jesus and His Apostles preach about? Two things, neither of which has to do with Heaven but with our state of being wherever we are: eternal life, and the Kingdom of God.
Being filled with eternal life is the same state of being whether we are in Heaven or on the earth. Living in the Kingdom of God, the will of God, is the same state of being whether we are in Heaven or upon the earth. This being the case, Heaven, as a place, is not the goal of our salvation. Living in eternal life is our goal. Living in the Kingdom of God is our goal.
Thus we observe that we are due for a reformation of Christian thinking. We must live by the Bible and not by our traditions if we are to stand in the days of Divine judgment that are approaching the United States as well as the rest of the world.
Canaan, then, represents life lived in the fullness of the Spirit of God, and according to the rules of the Kingdom of God. The rules of the Kingdom of God are created in us as Christ is formed in us. The fullness of the Spirit of God is given to us as we learn to live by the Life of Christ.
In one way of looking at it, our land of promise is our own personality. Our personality contains numerous enemies, including worldliness, lust, and self-will, that war against the eternal life of the Spirit and against the rules of the Kingdom of God.
When we, through Christ, have gained victory over the enemies in our own personality, then we will be a part of God’s Firstfruits. We will be a soldier in the army of judges that will go to war against Antichrist, the False Prophet, and Satan.
We will be raised from the dead when the Lord next appears and rise to meet Him in the air. We then will descend with Him and work alongside Him at the task of installing the Kingdom of God, the will of God, on the earth.
“Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on the earth as it is in Heaven.”
Such is the grand plan.
The Book of Hebrews warns us to press forward past the fundamentals of salvation and enter the rest of God. The rest of God is a state of being in which we are living by the Life of Christ as Christ lives by the Life of the Father. We have to set aside our own life if we are to live by the Life of Christ.
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. (Hebrews 3:13,14)
Keeping in mind that those to whom the Book of Hebrews was addressed were seasoned Christians who had suffered persecution, notice the firmness with which the writer is addressing them. These words are a strong rebuke to those today who claim that once we “accept Christ” we cannot ever lose our salvation.
Holding firmly our confidence till the end is not referring to maintaining a theologic position. It means keeping our faith in Christ while we are enduring hardships. “We must, through many hardships, enter the Kingdom of God,” the Apostles taught.
And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. (Hebrews 3:18,19)
Notice how disobedience and unbelief are linked together. True belief in the Lord Jesus always results in obedience to His commands and those of His Apostles. Today’s emphasis on “faith alone” is a destructive doctrine. When we truly believe in Christ we will do what Christ commands.
Notice also the expression “enter his rest.” In Chapters Three and Four of the Book of Hebrews, God’s rest is associated with Canaan, the land of promise.
Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. (Hebrews 4:1)
Come short of what? Remember that these were seasoned Christians who were being addressed. They had had every experience (and more) that we of the Pentecostal-Charismatic persuasion are aware of. So what are we lacking?
As far as the spiritual experience of the Hebrew Christians is concerned, here are their elementary teachings:
Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. (Hebrews 4:1,2)
- “Repentance from acts that lead to death.” Confessing and turning away from sin.
- “Faith in God.”
- “Instruction about baptisms.” In water and in the Spirit of God.
- “The laying on of hands.” Restored in the late 1940s and 50s.
- “The resurrection of the dead”. About which we know little or nothing because of the pernicious doctrine of the “rapture.”
- “Eternal judgment.” About which we no little or nothing because it is not often preached.
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age. (Hebrews 4:4,5)
The Christians being addressed in the Book of Hebrews had:
- “Tasted the heavenly gift.” The joy of salvation.
- “Shared in the Holy Spirit.”
- “Tasted the goodness of the word of God.”
- “Had tasted ‘the powers of the coming age.’”
How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? (Hebrews 2:3)
So these are the people who were being warned about ignoring their salvation and were being urged to press into the rest of God.
Where does this leave us of today, if these Jewish Christians were in danger of not having entered the rest of God, the land of promise, the goal of salvation?
For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. (Hebrews 4:2)
“Just as they did” I think is referring to the Israelites, mentioned in the preceding chapter. Perhaps the writer means that the Israelites did not enter the land of promise because they did not have the kind of faith that presses forward with God.
As soon as they heard there were giants in the land, they gave up in fear.
Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world.
I think the writer of Hebrews is exhorting us to keep pressing forward in faith. If we do so, we will enter our land of promise, the rest of God.
Notice “His work has been finished since the creation of the world.” This statement is the clue to the meaning of the expression: the rest of God.
During the six days of creation, God finished His work. Man is in the image of God. Man is male and female. Man is to be fruitful. Man is to govern the works of God’s hands.
All was finished in those six days. The master plan extends to the coming down from Heaven of the Royal Priesthood to be installed for eternity upon the gigantic new earth—and beyond into eternity. This includes man’s environment.
All has been finished. God is God. Also there are intimations in the Scriptures that each person’s destiny was decided in advance; although I have no doubt there are people who do change their appointed destiny, for evil or for good.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Psalms 139:15,16)
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
Now think: if everything has been planned from the beginning, what should be our attitude toward life? It would seem to me that we have two choices. We can plan and live our life according to our own understanding and desires; or we can live each day seeking to know what God wants us to do at the present moment.
I can’t think of a third alternative. Can you?
I myself have chosen the second way—that of setting aside my own plans and desires and endeavoring to know what Christ is thinking, is speaking, and is doing. I am endeavoring to live by His Life.
I have not always lived this way, because I did not understand about the rest of God—that God had finished my life from the beginning of the world, and then He rested. My task in life is to enter that rest and just be obedient day by day to what I feel Christ would have me think and do.
Let me issue a warning here. I do not mean to present myself as an empty vessel, waiting for the Lord to move me. This is passivity. This is deception. The writer did not tell us to flop into the rest but to labor to enter the rest. There is a total difference between laboring to enter the rest, and presenting ourselves as an “empty vessel.”
But how do we labor to enter God’s rest? Just as did the Israelites as they sought to gain a foothold in Canaan. We have every kind of enemy and pressure that one could imagine as we look to the Lord for what we should be thinking, saying, and doing.
The spirit of the world, particularly in America, is doing everything it can to distract us. Buy this. Think about that. Imagine you were here. And so forth. On and on it goes, and it is one massive lie. The implication is that if we have a lot of money we can buy many things and live luxuriously and have peace. It doesn’t always work, as we see by the mean, selfish behavior of some rich people.
Today, in America, the demons of sexual lust are present everywhere. Because Americans are forsaking God and the Bible, the demons of lust are able to persuade people that they should be gratifying their glandular desires. There is not a day goes by, it seems, that some person, often those who work with young people, does not fall into fornication.
Here we are, attempting to fight our way into God’s rest, and the demons are striving to get our attention so we will do some foolish thing.
In addition, we have the spirits of sin that live in our flesh. Every kind of lustful, murderous, arrogant, selfish spirit is present in us and endeavoring to move us to thought, speech, or action. We have to labor in prayer that we might be filled with the Spirit of God and able to overcome these foul pressures that reside in us.
Perhaps our worst enemy is our self-will. There are things we wish to accomplish, even in a religious setting, that we are not anxious to surrender to the Lord’s will. They are idols. We have to keep putting all things, relationships, and situations on the altar.
We absolutely have to put all of our treasures in Heaven. We may have them again before we die, or not until we die and pass into the spirit world.
So here we sit in the camp at Gilgal. The enemies are formidable, are they not? But God is greater!
We have to be circumcised in our heart, putting off the old self and clothing ourselves with the new Man, Christ.
We have to celebrate the Passover, refreshing ourselves in the blood of the Lamb.
We have to eat some of the produce of Canaan, the Presence of Christ to a greater extent than we have known.
The manna will cease as soon as we eat the produce of the land—those daily graces that kept us going when we were playing volleyball with God. Now we are on the same side of the net with God, thinking as He is thinking; speaking as He is speaking; and acting as He is acting.
I have been growing into this rest for about a year (after sixty years as a Christian). I never had heard the rest of God explained, and so I was following Christ to the best of my knowledge up to this time.
A year or so ago—maybe a little longer—I found myself exhorting the congregation to endeavor to learn to live by the Life of Jesus. This means asking the Lord about everything we do, continually giving thanks as He answers prayer; keeping in touch with the Lord throughout the day and night.
This constant communication really brings the Presence of Jesus.
One time I said, while I was being taped, “I count the raisins each morning that I put on my oatmeal.” This caused consternation on the part of a friend who listens to the tapes. I am not surprised.
Actually, I don’t literally do that—one, two, three–but I always ask the Lord to help me put on the right amount of. Being elderly, I am careful about my diet; and now, with this new Presence, I am getting the advice I ask for.
Asking the Lord about what you should eat and how much you should eat, at every meal, may seem trivial. But this is the way the rest of God is. It is made up of all those little decisions we make each day.
We can choose to eat and how much we eat and when we eat, or we can look to Jesus.
We can choose what time to go to bed, or we can look to Jesus.
We can choose where to go on a vacation, or we can look to Jesus.
We can choose what to wear, or we can look to Jesus.
I realize I am speaking from the standpoint of an American, and not everyone in the world has these options. But I am certain the poorest of people have decisions they make each day, that they can look to the Lord rather than to themselves for the best action to take.
For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.” And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.” (Hebrews 4:4,5)
From the passage above it sounds to me that the writer of Hebrews has understood that God is comparing Canaan, with God’s rest on the seventh day of creation.
For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.” So I declared on oath in my anger, “They shall never enter my rest.” (Psalms 95:10,11)
Then the writer of Hebrews goes on to say:
It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. (Hebrews 4:6)
The writer is telling us here that the key to entering the rest of God is stern obedience to God. I had made up my mind many years ago to do God’s will, whatever it proves to be, as long as He gives me grace to do it. I do not say this to boast but to encourage and exhort some who may waver between their pleasures and Christ.
The rest of God consists of continually seeking the Presence of Christ and doing precisely what He says at all times. Anything less than this will prevent the believers from being among the Firstfruits; among those who march in the army of judges who will be raised when the Lord appears.
Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:7)
The day in which we are living is very important in the program of redemption; in God’s plan to bring people into His rest. Jesus promised that many who are last shall be first. But we must listen, listen, listen at all times to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Otherwise we will miss the day of our visitation.
I am afraid that the hearts of many American Christians have become hard because they have been seduced by the world. Therefore they cannot hear Christ, who has changed from Moses to Joshua, who is ready to lead His people into Canaan, into the rest of God.
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. (Hebrews 4:8)
The writer is saying that Canaan is not the rest God has in mind.
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; (Hebrews 4:9)
If the land of Canaan is not what God means by His rest, then we of today have an opportunity to find and enter it.
For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:10)
The insight of the writer of the Book of Hebrews is amazing. How would anyone else have thought to make the transition from the Israelites invading Canaan, to the Christian believer who is to look back to the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, and decide that since God has planned everything from the beginning, the believer’s task is to rest with God as the believer’s life unfolds.
I refer to entering God’s rest as setting aside our own life that we may live by the Life of the Lord Jesus.
Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:11)
The Israelites failed to enter the land at first, because they ceased trusting the Lord, choosing to think of the enemies who lived in Canaan.
I guess what the writer is saying, is that when we hear that we can invite Christ into our life to such an extent that He helps us with all of our decisions, problems, and needs, we may consider our own personality and be afraid to launch into such a life of complete immersion in Christ.
“If I jump off the cliff will He catch me? Do I dare to trust God for righteousness, love, joy, and peace; or do I need to look out for myself and work to obtain these things in my own way.”
“There are relationships and circumstances that I desire fervently. What if God does not care whether I get them or not? What if I don’t have enough money to eat, have a roof over my head, and clothes to wear? What then? Is God going to help me with my needs?”
“That God up there. Does He know I exist? If I give everything to Him, will I have a miserable life and never get what I want?”
“How can I be sure that God is faithful, like the Bible says He is? If I count on Him to provide my needs and desires, will He let me down and ignore me?”
Such are the enemies that face us. It boils down to faith in God’s Character, doesn’t it?
So here we sit at Gilgal. Should we place our trust in God and move forward as Christ leads us? Or should we camp here and worry about God’s Character.
I have made my decision. How about you?
(“Camped at Gilgal”, 3674-1)